Oak Hammock senior residents are exploring what’s possible with virtual reality

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An assisted living facility in Gainesville has been using virtual reality to improve residents’ mental health.

Oak Hammock at the University of Florida is using a virtual reality system, by company Rendever, to allow residents the opportunity to experience things like a virtual trip to anywhere in the world.

The virtual reality system has an extensive library of immersive videos, including animal shows, music shows, vacation destinations and more. The virtual reality system allows residents to see parts of Gainesville, and beyond, they would otherwise not be able to physically visit.

“Some people do not come out of their rooms, but when we bring out the virtual reality system, they come out,” activities assistant Keora Mincey said. “They get to travel to different places that they have never been to and to places that they have already been to. I think this virtual reality experience really helps improve residents’ mental health a lot.

Oak Hammock resident experiences virtual reality with the Rendever system. (Photo courtesy of Oak Hammock)

Residents often ask to look at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, downtown Gainesville and the Florida Ballpark at Alfred A.McKethan Field. Residents can also see their old town or home by typing in an address into the system. Chrissy Smoak, the life enrichment manager at Oak Hammock, said that for many residents the Rendever virtual reality system sparks memories, although they may not remember a particular address right away.

“We’ve had some who may not remember a specific address, but they remember a street name in a state, and we can take them there,” Smoak said.

Staff members may say “Let us look around. Does anything look familiar?” as a way for residents to find something that sparks memory. This may be a landmark or a building, including a store or restaurant.

Oak Hammock staff members said they have also enjoyed helping the residents use the Rendever virtual reality system.

Samantha Albino, a certified nurse and activities assistant at Oak Hammock, believes the system has connected the staff and the residents.

“I think it has been interesting to show residents the street view option. I’ve shown them a couple of my addresses and my home town, which I think has helped us connect with one another,” Albino said.

Rendever continues to work to overcome social isolation through the power of virtual reality and shared experiences.

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